27th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: October 8, 2023
You do not own anything!
This includes your money, your house, your children, your possessions, your time, your energy. God is the true owner of everything, we are tenants who are to care for everything on behalf of God. We are tenants not owners. We human being ultimately do not own anything. The day we die, will anything go with us? We do not own it, we just watch over it for a short time.
It is important that we see that we do not own anything, that we are not owners. Human beings acting as owners leads to great harm. What are the negative consequences of human beings acting as owners instead of tenants?
When we see ourselves as owners we begin to cling to things, so we say this is “mine.” This is the root of wars, the root of divisions within families and in communities. This affects how we use creation. Then we use creation in a way that leads to its destruction and waste.
Today we are facing a climate crisis. Pope Francis just published a new Apostolic Letter called Laudate Deum, Praise God, in which he announces to humanity once again the call to change our way of life that is destroying the environment. We do not own creation, we are to be stewards who care for creation on behalf of God, the Creator and true owner.
The attitude of ownership of our possessions and wealth leads to a lack of solidarity in our world. We no longer see our fellow human beings as brothers and sisters in one human family. We own our things and do not care about so many who do not have enough. All we have in this world has been given not to grasp what we can get for ourselves, but to care for one another in solidarity.
Within relationships we can also develop a sense of ownership. When we think we own our spouse or our children, it leads to an attitude of control. You do not own your spouse or children. Do not worry about trying to control them, rather focus on caring for them on behalf of God.
This sense of ownership also impacts the church. In the past, people would often say that they were going to “hear” Father’s Mass. As if the Mass belonged to the priest. When I preside at Mass, it is not my Mass, it is the Mass of Jesus Christ. All of us as members of the church are called to care for the Sacraments, not as a possession, but as something belonging to Jesus. This is not our Mass, we care for it and offer it on behalf of Jesus.
Soon we will be entering a new church. Sometimes a person will ask me, Father, how is your new church. Well, it is not my church. In fact, it is not our church. It is a church dedicated to God and we are to use this new church in a way that reflects the will of God. Each person should feel loved and welcomed in this new church.
Years ago in a previous parish there was a young autistic boy who wanted to serve. He did pretty well but he was very restless and would be moving a lot. One elderly woman who sat near the servers, came to me and asked me if he had to serve since it was very distracting at “her” Mass. Imagine thinking, it is “my” Mass, so this autistic boy should not be serving as it interferes with “my” Mass.
Instead of clinging to everything with a sense of ownership, we need to see all we have as something to be cared for on behalf of God. Creation, wealth, my time, my energy, spouse, children, church.
So, we need to ask ourselves, how would God want this to be used? In fact, most of us pray the Lord’s prayer everyday where we say, “Thy will be done.” We need to live as tenants not owners. If we human beings saw nothing as mine, but all as something to be cared for on behalf of God, it would change the world. Poverty, war, divisions, damage to creation is all rooted in an attitude expressed in “this is mine.”
We need to see ourselves as tenants not owners. I do not own anything.